clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Why the Vikings took a risk on Sheldon Richardson

Richardson will join forces with a defense that was already the NFL’s most difficult to score against in 2017.

Seattle Seahawks v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Sheldon Richardson will play for his third team in as many seasons this year. On Friday, Richardson signed with the Minnesota Vikings, the team announced.

According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, it’s a one-year, $8 million deal with another $3 million available in incentives.

Richardson brings versatility to the Vikings and adds more firepower to a defense that was No. 1 in yards and points allowed in 2017. He was moved all over defensive line for the Jets, and then played exclusively at defensive tackle when he joined the Seahawks last season.

The Seahawks wanted him back, but not at the price of a $13.9 million franchise tag. The Vikings were also willing to pay more, which means the Seahawks definitely didn’t offer much.

What are the concerns with Richardson?

Richardson spent last season with the Seahawks, who acquired him in a September trade with the Jets just before the season started. The 2013 first-round pick is considered one of the best young defensive linemen in the NFL, but left the Jets on shaky terms.

In 2015, he was suspended four games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy and eventually pleaded guilty to resisting arrest after leading a high-speed chase. In 2016 alone, Richardson arrived late to team meetings, used profanity on Snapchat about his team’s upcoming game, and publicly criticized teammate Brandon Marshall.

But he did have a solid season for the Seahawks after they shipped off wideout Jermaine Kearse and a second-round pick in 2018 to the Jets. That was enough to convince Minnesota to take a chance on him.

What does Richardson bring to the Vikings?

In 15 games with the Seahawks last year, Richardson had 44 tackles, one sack, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries, and one interception. That level of production is what the Vikings will hope Richardson will provide.

There were few players to complain about on Minnesota’s dominant defense in 2017, but defensive tackle Tom Johnson may have the weakest link. He earned the lowest grade on Pro Football Focus among starters for the Vikings and is now a free agent.

Linval Joseph’s starting job is secure, but the only other defensive tackles on the roster were Sharrif Floyd, who suffered a possibly career-ending knee injury, and 2017 fourth-round pick Jaleel Johnson. Richardson will presumably immediately fill that starting role next to Joseph.

He has a reputation from his time with the Jets, but Richardson’s talent makes him worth any risk. He’s got a quick first step and a knack for pressuring quarterbacks, even if it doesn’t always show up on the stat sheet. PFF ranked him the 13th pass rusher in the league last year among all defensive linemen.

Richardson only had one sack last season, but he had five in 2015 and eight back in 2014. He was named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2013 after proving to be a disruptive, run-stopping force on the Jets’ defensive line.

He’s only 27 years old and there’s no reason he shouldn’t be able to get back to that form.

Is this a smart signing?

Absolutely. Richardson is young, talented, and he seemed to benefit from the change of scenery in Seattle last year. He also came at a relatively cheap price. Starting fresh in Minnesota should be a positive for him.